Don't blame the kids Featured

11:49am EDT April 5, 2004
American Eagle Inc.'s greatest asset is its youth. It's also one of its biggest problems.

American Eagle sells clothes through its 740 retail stores in the United States and Canada and aims its pitch at the 15- to 25-year-old market. The company has a young, tech savvy work force and lots of computers, some 750 in its Warrendale headquarters and in remote locations. So what's the problem?

The trouble came with the enormous amount of spam that was entering the company's e-mail boxes. Ken Watts, American Eagle's vice president of technology infrastructure, says spam messages were clogging the company's e-mail and wasting valuable man-hours. Everyone, including Watts, was fed up with the deluge.

"I personally was getting frustrated with deleting e-mails that I thought were spam," says Watts.

Watts' first effort was installing filters on the desktops and the laptops, a "wholly inadequate" solution, he says now. The next attempt was to install a filter at its e-mail server, which helped, Watts says, but it posed a huge administrative burden.

Finally, Watts hit on an outsourced solution. The answer was FrontBridge Technologies Inc., a Marina del Rey, Calif., company that receives e-mail messages at data centers around the United States, filters out spam, examines it for viruses, then forwards mail to the client. The service is resold in Pittsburgh through Vigilant Minds Inc., an information systems security adviser.

American Eagle took FrontBridge on a 30-day trial. The results were so incredible that the company continued the service. In November, out of 7.5 million e-mails that came into FrontBridge bound for American Eagle, 6.8 million were identified as spam. In January, 14.7 million of the 16.1 million messages were culled out as junk e-mail.

Watts says the off-site solution offers several advantages.

* It stops spam before it hits American Eagle's network.

* There are no upfront capital costs and no extra boxes or cables to install.

* It saves inbound bandwidth and mail server storage space.

* Messages are scanned for viruses before they are forwarded to American Eagle, lowering the possibility of a virus attack.

* There are minimal false positives, that is, messages that are recognized by FrontBridge as spam but are not.

* Clients pay on a per computer basis, so the cost of the solution is the same, no matter what the volume of e-mail or spam.

* And there's the added savings realized because users don't have to delete endless lines of spam e-mails.

Says Watts: "We're not wading through miles and miles of spam e-mail." How to reach: American Eagle Inc., www.ae.com; Vigilant Minds, www.vigilantminds.com, FrontBridge Technologies Inc., www.frontbridge.com